New bill would eliminate current class size limit

RALEIGH, N.C. — A bill which would eliminate class size caps in North Carolina is one step closer to law.

Sponsored by Sen. Jerry Tillman of Randolph County, the measure would allow school districts to use money earmarked for teaching positions for other purposes, such as technology or text books. The districts could balance out that spending by increasing class size as necessary.

School systems wouldn’t have money allotted specifically to hire additional teachers to meet class size limits as they currently do; instead it would be up to the districts to decide how to spend state dollars.

Supporters of the bill say it would allow districts to manage their money how they see fit, as long as they are making student improvement.

Opponents of the bill say allowing districts to increase class size would increase teacher stress, decrease student achievement and be unfair for students who depend on a teacher’s ability to spend one-on-one time with them.

Second grade teacher Tammy Laws works at Erwin Montessori in Greensboro. She has twenty students this year and says smaller class sizes and having a teacher assistant allows her to give individualized attention to her students.

“When you start adding children and you get up to 25 or… no cap, that becomes a great challenge,” admitted Laws.

“As Chief Academic Officer for Guilford County, I’m extremely concerned,” said Beth Folger with Guilford County Schools.

“What the legislation is saying is–we’re going to give you the same number of teacher’s we’ve been giving you. But you can decide to use those teachers differently or transfer those resources and use them in another way by increasing your class size,” Folger explained. “We don’t want to do that in Guilford County. We don’t believe it’s the right thing to do.”

Pointing out recent budget cuts, Folger said simply shifting around the same number of dollars and increasing class size so they don’t have to hire as many teachers, does solve budget constraints in the long-term or encourage academic achievement.

“Any time you have a situation where legislation is being changed at the same time budgets are being decreased, you can imagine how the two will clash and what could be the outcome for our classrooms,” she pointed out.

Folger said currently, the state-required maximum ratio of teacher to students is:

  • 1-24 for K-3
  • 1-29 for grades 4-9
  • 1-31 grades 10, 11 and 12

The bill will now go to the Senate Appropriations Committee.